A Look at Key Economic Indicators at the Close of 2018
December 11, 2018
By Timothy Speiss
During a December 7 appearance on CNBC’s “Street Signs” with Joumanna Bercetche, I discussed where we are with a number of key economic indicators and how they compare to this time last year.
The November 2018 jobs report cited a decrease in October 2018 unemployment by 15%, at 3.7% compared to 4.2% in October of last year. It appeared November 2018 could closely track October 2018. In fact, the December 7 jobs report release indicated that the U.S. economy added 155,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate stayed at 3.7%—matching October’s rate.
The 2018 unemployment rate has decreased compared to 2017: Q1, Q2 and Q3 each by 15%. A total of 155,000 jobs were created in November 2018, lower than the 250,000 jobs created in October 2018. Yet, despite these varying numbers, the November U.S. unemployment rate remained at 3.7%. However, the 2018 year-to-date U.S. wage growth at 3% has been significantly offset by inflation, diminishing net wage growth this year.
Nevertheless, jobs creation is fueling the decrease in unemployment, led by the labor needs in health care, manufacturing, construction and warehousing. This will most likely continue for the foreseeable future.
GDP growth in 2018 Q2 and Q3 hovered at a 1% increase each quarter. Compared to 2017, 2018 growth is 3.5%. Per capita GDP is $13,628, reflecting 5% growth over 2017’s rate. The U.S. inflation rate was 2.5% in October, compared to 2.3% in September 2018. This is not surprising considering 2018 jobs and GDP growth is a classic economic relationship.
The U.S. equity markets were very volatile on December 6. The Dow lost nearly 800 points, yet closed the day making most of it back, closing down 79 points to nearly 25,000. This is nearly the same level at which the Dow opened on January 2, 2018, at 24,824. As of this writing on December 7, the Dow is at 24,553 in mid-day trading. The reasons for this recent market volatility? The U.S.-China trade conflict, among other factors.
The close of 2018 most likely will remain unchanged from current economic circumstances, with 2019 forecasts already a focus for investors. It also remains to be seen how the Fed will act in light of these numbers.